What’s Irresistible to You? Chocolate? Yes. Our Faith? Yay or Nay…

Friends!  Would your friends say you have an irresistible faith?  Anybody besides me want to reply, “Come back in a bit, I’m not quite ready for that question…”

Yes, well, let me fetch some chocolate while we ponder this together…

Recently I was delighted to be part of a committee to choose books for our upcoming book club season for fall 2019-spring 2020.  Seven slots to fill seemed easy, however five for five of us arrived at the meeting with ten to fifteen suggestions, each.  We were a vision of “so many books, so little time.”

One of the many recommendations I received, I also read.  It hit me between the eyes and my poor brain is still trying to process it..  The book?  Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian The World Can’t Resist by Scott Sauls. Scott pastors Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville where I’ve been blessed to attend a women’s conference with my good buddy, Madge, who lives there.

My favorite endorsement of this book comes from Duke Keon who pastors Grace Meridian Hill in Washington, DC:  “With biblical clarity, personal transparency, and a relentlessly winsome  spirit, Scott Sauls shows us how authentic Christianity is attractive Christianity. It’s a timely and reliable road map for those seeking to restore the damaged witness and public reputation of Christians…If you want to learn how the grace of God makes us the ‘light of the world’ in all of life, read this book!”

In his Foreword in the book, Bob Goff says, “This book is an invitation for us to return to the most authentic version of our faith. It’s also an invitation to join, or create, an authentic community of people trying to go somewhere beautiful with their faith.”

Bob has just painted a picture for us of what we experience in Bible study and small groups.  That’s exactly what we aspire to do, to “go somewhere beautiful with our faith.”  I love that!

Scott begins by saying what really bugs him is how many negative reactions the word “Christian” gets.  He quotes San Francisco journalist Herb Caen who said, “The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around.”  OUCH…

Scott rattles off a dozen questions causing us readers to consider what it would look like for our love for the Lord and each other to be so contagious and so irresistible non-believers would want to know the source of our faith. His book offers some much-needed ideas and suggestions. It’s akin to an owner’s manual you’ll want to refer to often. (Scott, any fat chance you could create a pocket-size version for us???)

Scott asks,

I’m happy to report you’ll also get to laugh out loud multiple times.  Scott tells on himself and gifts us with fantastic quotes from other authors as well.  He confesses he finds “more satisfaction in the praise of people than he does in the grace of God.”  We’re all normal human beings and we simply forget the glory goes to God and belongs only to Him. This is not an easy subject matter, and Scott takes us by the hand to show us what irresistible faith looks like.

Brennan Manning says it best:

“I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.” (From The Ragamuffin Gospel)

Right about the time you want to ask, “Now what?” Scott reminds us if we keep a “steady diet of God-inspired words, aided and animated by the Holy Spirit, we’ll have nurtured, healthy, and solid souls.” He lists countless classic authors, musicians, all steeped in God’s Word giving us beautiful examples and a well-built case for keeping our noses in His Word.

A new-to-me and now favorite concept we learn about is found in Chapter 4, “Practicing Transparency and Kindness.” We discover a thought from Ann Voskamp that Scott’s church has now adopted, “only speak words that make souls stronger.”

He tells us,

The staff at Christ Presbyterian Church has come to “nurture a culture of benediction.”  They begin their staff meetings “by speaking life-giving words over each other.” Can you imagine the impact on each of them when their co-workers publicly praise each other one by one? What if we tried this in our homes with our beloved family? And friends? And anyone who crosses our path?

Scott teaches us “the universal Christian job description:  all Christians are called as Christ’s ambassadors into the places where they live, work, play, and worship, with the glorious purpose of leaving people, places, and things better than they found them.”

It’s living out Colossians 3:23-24:

Now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and snag a copy of Irresistible Faith.

‘Til next time!

P.S.  While reading this book, I kept thinking to myself that Scott should connect with Christine Caine as they really remind me of each other.  They both pack a punch with mega enthusiasm causing you to want to be on their team.  How like the Lord to have Christine as one of Scott’s endorsers.  She says Scott and his wife, Patty, are friends with Christine and her husband Nick! She goes so far as to say she loves everything Scott writes.  Amen and amen…

 

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When You Get a Handle on Handel: Discover Telltale Facts About Trees, Thanks to Dr. Matthew Sleeth

Friends! May I ask you a couple of questions?  When was the last time you sat under a tree simply to rest and reflect or, perhaps to take a nap?

Have you ever bought a tree purely because of a favorite memory?

Have you ever bought a tree to commemorate or celebrate a life?

In a group of almost 20 friends yesterday, they answered these questions in the affirmative on all levels.  I was right there with them.

There was a huge weeping willow on UK’s Campus when John and I were students there.  We loved sitting under it in between classes.  Time stood still while hearts hovered over our heads.

Fast forward to our current home. A few years ago, we purchased and planted a lovely weeping willow for our front yard. It greets us every time we pull in the driveway.  It, accompanied by now blooming dogwoods, are quite the tranquil sight to see.

I’m blessed to call author Dr. Matthew Sleeth and his lovely wife, Nancy, dear friends and mentors.  They popped into our lives thanks to my friend, Sherry Leavell’s daughter, Laura, who used to work for them.  God was beyond gracious when He crossed our paths.

Matthew has just birthed a fascinating book that’s already a best-seller on Amazon, he’s being interviewed on places like NPR, Fox News,  has written an article for Christianity Today  and The Washington Post, just to name a few. News of his book is spreading FAST.

One of Matthew’s many endorsers, Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well:  Finding the Good Life Through Great Books and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah Moore:  Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist, says of Matthew’s book, “I never knew until reading Reforesting Faith how bountiful and significant trees are in God’s story of the creation, the Fall, and redemption. This book has deepened my love for God’s Word and His world even more.”

Matthew begins by sharing his early love of trees with us.  I suspect many of us resonate with him.

He poses an interesting question:  “What can trees teach us?  Specifically, what can trees teach us about the nature of God and His love for us?”

We learn:

Matthew takes us on a journey via thirteen chapters of his book, showing us how “every important character in the Bible and every major event in the Bible has a tree marking the spot.”  I’d never made this connection before.  You will drop your jaw as you see time and time again where God meets your favorite characters by a tree of sorts.

You will also laugh your head off in every chapter.  Matthew’s transparency and wit bless you on this journey.

His medical background enhances our understanding of the Gospel as revealed in the Bible, giving us visuals we can understand.  Same can be said for his background in carpentry.  Don’t miss chapter twelve.  Funniest story I can recall.

It’s not just a book of humor, however.  The fascinating facts about trees and how they correlate to the Gospel, and ultimately to us as believers, are nothing short of beautiful.  To see our God in action, in minute details, will blow you away.

Let me give you a couple of the numerous examples we readers receive:

“In the Old Testament,

Noah received the olive leaf (Genesis 8:11)
Abraham sat under ‘the Oaks of Mamre’ (Genesis 18:1)
Moses stood barefoot in front of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2-5)
Joseph simply is a tree! (Genesis 49:22)”

Now let’s look at the New Testament:

“Think of Zacheus climbing the sycamore fig (Luke 19:1-4)
The blind man seeing people as if they were trees walking (Mark 8:24),
The disciples gathering on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39).
Paul asserted if we have gone for a walk in the woods, we are without excuse for knowing God.” (Romans 1:20),

And, my absolute favorite illustration from Scripture:

Yes, Lord, may it be so.

Something happened in Matthew’s life which also happened in one of my dear friend’s life, which I suspect if you reflect back over your own life, you can pinpoint the same.

Let me explain. Before you came to faith, if you’re a believer, you may have heard Scripture, or a song, or read something about the Lord but it went in one ear and out the other.  You had “spiritual blinders” on.  And yet you can pinpoint the exact moment when you had an “aha” moment, when the light bulb blasted on and your eyes were opened. Think of Saul-turned-Paul on the Road to Damascus in the Bible. (See Acts 9,)

This happened to Matthew the summer before he started med school. He was doing some carpentry work in the home of a psychiatrist who had a fabulous stereo system.  The doctor played an album for him which stopped Matthew in his tracks.

Matthew said, “I heard trees and people singing together, and it was perfect. Maples were prominent among the trees represented. But spruce, ebony, willow, boxwood, and rosewood trees sang along too, and none tried to eclipse the others.”

Asking the doctor why it sounded so good, the doctor answered, “I think, among other things, it’s because they are using a dozen Stradivarius, Guarneri, and Amati instruments and they’re performing it the way it was originally played.”

We readers discover they were listening to Handel’s Messiah.  The version they were listening to was one “by the late Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music.”  Matthew adds, “and if you think the trees can’t sing, give it a listen.”

Matthew listened to this over and over, never considering the lyrics for thirty years, “until the hour I believed. Then I cried. I sobbed. I wailed. I grinned in delight. And I cried again.”

When I read this, I about fell out of my chair.  You see, my dear friend, Nancy Aguiar, had an identical experience.  I can’t remember milk at the grocery store these days, but stories rarely leave me.  Check this out:

When Nancy was in the 12th grade, she attended Frankfurt International School in Oberursel, Germany. (1970) In choir, she and her fellow students had months of preparation for this magnificent piece known as Handel’s Messiah.

Every day, day after day, they sang the glorious lyrics of Handel’s masterpiece, making certain they were all singing in their correct parts of harmony.

Nancy said, “It is a beautifully written score, it was a beautiful experience with a passionate doctor leading us (Dr. Morgenstern), with hands flailing, voices reaching way past the highest rafters, hearts beating rapidly…and yet I had no capacity to embrace what it was we were singing!  Just words to me!  No concept!”

She continued, “And NOW? Every single time I hear that amazing work, I sing my part (quietly) and  cry! How deeply I love that song after I met Jesus in 1979.  Makes all the difference in the world! What an anointed piece of work!” Nancy also grasped a handle on Handel.

Might you have a story like this?

Sidebar:  A children’s book comes to mind that was given to us by our cousin Russ, when our boys were little.  It would be a fun way to educate your children or grandchildren on George Frederic Handel.  Check out Handel:  Who Knew What He Liked by M.T. Anderson and Kevin Hawkes.  Beautiful illustrations! Don’t miss the details from the book of Isaiah and Handel’s lyrics for The Messiah coming straight from it. (See chapter 10 in Matthew’s book.)

Let’s return to Reforesting Faith. So as not to spoil the many discoveries awaiting you, allow me to share just one more pearl.  Speaking of pearls, did you know Jesus only referred to one gem in the Bible and it is a pearl?

Matthew teaches, “It’s no accident this gem is made naturally of both inorganic and organic material..we’re told the gates to heaven are made of this hybrid material.”

We then learn that in the same way, a fig “is the only fruit that’s made of both plant and animal.” It, too, is an “odd hybrid.”

When we see in Scripture the lion and the lamb lying down together (Isaiah 11:6 and Revelation 21:1-6)  or Moses’ burning bush, there’s yet one more combo’ Matthew reminds us of, that of “dead wood and lamb’s blood.”

He says, “In the hybrid world, nothing is as powerful as this combination. When the two were combined on a doorway at Passover, the lambs’ blood sealed the door shut. The angel of death could not get through such a door, and the people inside were ‘passed over’ and saved.”   This, in chapter twelve, is the beginning of yet another crescendo of facts and explanations that keep building until you finish the last page in chapter thirteen.  I can hardly wait to fill our family in on this!

Matthew also shares about a wonderful ministry called Plant with Purpose.  (Website:  www.plantwithpurpose.org) It aims to equip farming families around the to world to increase farm yields, heal damaged ecosystems, improve nutrition, and. Increase household savings and opportunities.  This integrated approach solves two major issues facing the world today:  environmental degradation and rural poverty.

Reforesting Faith is an eye-opening read.  Whether you’re a tree lover or not, you’ll become one and further your appreciation for God’s Word, His details and why He wants us to be like a fruitful tree.  Matthew ends with, “Grow, make the world better, and bear fruit.”  May it be so.

And now you know what I’m going to say:  Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and buy this book!

‘Til next time!

 

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I Will Never Yell, “Hurry Up!” to Our Children, And Other Motherhood Myths…

Friends! This Mother’s Day Week I thought I’d amuse you with some of my own horrific mothering no-no’s, show off our newest grandchildren (Oh yeah, I’m one of those—pics are at the end!), and then point you to a quick must-read for all parents and grandparents: Praying Circles around Your Children by Mark Batterson. It’s a powerful little paperback that will change the way you think and pray.

Praying Circles

First, here are some of my Motherhood Myths, and then we’ll get to the prayer tips:

I’ll never chuck a pop tart into the back seat on the way to school.” (Well, at least this didn’t happen ‘til child #3 arrived.)

I’ll never yell at our children before church.” (Yeah, that happened more than once: Verrry ugly.)

“We will never blow thru’ a drive-thru’ two nights in a row.” (That didn’t last thru’ the first soccer season.)

I’ll always realize what a blessing they are when they seem to be a pain in the you-know-where.” (I need to write this on a blackboard about a hundred times while begging the Lord for His forgiveness about a thousand times.)

I’ll never cry uncontrollably in front of them.” (Scares our boys silly.)

I’ll stop worrying about them when they reach age _____.” (Hasn’t happened yet.)

I’ll never forget they’re really on loan from the Lord.” (This is a primo reminder I’m suspecting we ALL need. Frequently.) PLUS, He loves them more than we do.

Don’t mess with these Motherhood Myths! While you’re at, pitch your own if you have any! Instead, begin with this beautiful Scripture:

Lamentations 2-19

Author Mark Batterson tells of a legend he discovered in the Jewish Talmud about a prayer warrior named Honi. Honi literally drew a circle around himself in the sand, and stayed there praying for much-needed rain, for mercy on the people of the village, and for favor, blessing and graciousness. He was ultimately honored for “the prayer that saved a generation.”

This eye-opening little book, Praying Circles Around Your Children, gives you loads of promises in Scripture to “circle” around your children. It gives you ideas for circling a place of work, or a school, or a piece of property, or a home, covering that concern in prayer.

“Circling” something or someone in prayer is really akin to:

I Thessalonians 5:17 which simply says, “Pray continually.” Mark recommends we endeavor to rev up the intensity and tenacity of our prayers.

Mark adds, “Prayer is the way we take our hands off our children and place them in the hands of God.”

Of the five prayer circles Mark gives his readers, the second one, Making Prayer Lists, is my favorite. Being a list maker (to a fault!!!), this idea grabbed me. Look at the verse he gives us:

“Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3 NLT)

What’s on your list? I have short-term and long-term requests on mine. I have a list of friends with health challenges. The blessing in seeing how God answers them is worth the time and effort of writing them down, plus you know the direction to keep praying.

Recently I drew circles in my journal and placed people in them according to their circumstances. The visual effect is comforting. Remember, tho’, these lists are not just your wish list.

Mark reminds us, “Every prayer, including your prayers for your children, must pass a twofold litmus test:

Your prayers must be in the will of God and for the Glory of God.”

I love one of Mark’s prayers for his children, “Lord let their ears be tuned to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. I want my children to find their voice, and the key is hearing the voice of God.”

Don’t miss this warning: “If they don’t hear the voice of God, they will echo our culture.” Hello? Anyone aghast at the goings on of our culture???

Checkout the other prayer circles (I’ve only given you a snippet!) in the book. May we heed Mark’s closing remarks,

“Don’t lose heart.

          Don’t lose hope.

                    Don’t lose faith.

                              Keep circling!”

May we all be reminded of Psalm 127:3:

Children are a GIFT from the Lord; they are a REWARD from him…”

I loved seeing this Scripture on the wall of Central Baptist Hospital where our 3rd grandchild, Henry Pierce Hoagland was born in Lexington, KY on 4/22/19. Gordy and Lauren told us a prayer is said over the intercom every morning.

Here we are cuddling with Henry.  What a blessing.

John and Huck with Baby Henry

 

Yours truly with Baby Henry

 

Baby Ford (Woodford Lee Hoagland, Jr.) is now smiling! He is Woody and LT’s baby, born 3/18/19. Ford and Henry are five weeks apart to the day and almost the hour.

 

Claire and Diana at Dawn at the Downs Derby Week. Claire Elizabeth Hoagland turns 2 years old on 5/9/19! John Junior and Diana are expecting Baby Charlotte September 1st.  Let the games begin!

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day Week and Weekend!

‘Til next time!

 

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Evade a Fade…Let’s Finish Well!

Friends! Anybody else on the hamster wheel this week?  Can’t quite catch up on that sleep that evaporated into the night? Dozing at the ole desk?

This week we’ll look at a couple of examples we do not want to emulate which I pray will motivate us toward a good finish… in spite of our not-so-friendly fatigue…

Recently John and I were blessed to hear Jonathan Pennington speak on the life of King David.  Our “take home” was DO NOT FADE.  (Avoid fading, or EVADE A FADE.)

Jonathan showed us in 2 Samuel when King David was somewhere between sixty and seventy, he became passive, losing his initiative, no longer active nor whole-hearted in his endeavors. Checkout his parenting skills (or lack thereof) in 2 Samuel as well as his other sinful acts which came with consequences, chapters 11-24, for starters… David was fading. (But don’t miss his repentance in chapter 22 and Psalm 51, plus we know David was a man after God’s own heart…very simply he was human just like you and me.)

Jonathan also reminded us of Eli, Samuel’s father who didn’t discipline his other two sons, who are dubbed “wicked” in the Bible. “But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death.” (1 Samuel 2:25) Eli lacked the same umph to discipline his sons that David did. Eli was fading.

This word, “fade”, ricocheted between our ears, and other friends of ours afterwards, all of us agreeing we do not want to fade into the background as we get older.  We want to be very present in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Checkout what some definitions show for “to fade”:

DANGER WILL ROBINSON! We do NOT want to do anything of the sort!

I love a Grandfather’s prayer that says, “I ask God most often that we would be an unbroken line of Christians until Christ returns.”

Let’s hold Deuteronomy 4:9 tightly in our hearts,

How exactly, you may be asking, are we to evade a fade? Seems Jonathan and author and pastor Erwin Raphael McManus are on the same page, armed with help, just for us.  Don’t miss Erwin’s killer convicting book, The Last Arrow—Save Nothing for the Next Life.

Ten for ten of Erwin’s chapters equip us readers to be “battle ready.” (A few favorites are:  “Save Nothing for the Next Life”, “Refuse to Stay Behind”, “Act Like Your Life Depends on It.”)

He says,

“My intention for this book is that you would

NEVER SURRENDER,

That you would NEVER SETTLE,

That you would SAVE NOTHING FOR THE NEXT LIFE.”

Erwin warns,

Existence is a slow death;

Mediocrity is like quicksand that slowly consumes you and sucks the life out of you…

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO CREATE IN YOU A SENSE OF URGENCY?”

Yes, well that will wake one up, huh?  What makes this book so compelling is Erwin prefaces it by sharing that while he was doing the final edits, he received the news he had cancer. Given that perspective, we readers hang tighter to the message, inspired to, in a nutshell, “buck up.” Stay in the race…

Need encouragement to evade a fade?  Be determined to ask the Lord daily to help you instill faith in your children and grandchildren, extending that line of Christians…making it endless!

2 Timothy 4:7-8 shows us what it looks like to finish well:

Press on, dear friends.

Evade a fade!

‘Til next time!

 

 

 

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Happy Holy Week! You’re Invited to Our Last Book Club Meeting of the Season, Cliffhanger and All, Next Monday, 4/22 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. (Don’t miss the Rx for Anxiety near the end…)

Friends! Come one, come all to what promises to be a super fun finale for our season. Terri Blackstock’s If I Run is not only suspenseful, it’s a cliffhanger and will provide you with two more books you’ll want to read to find out what happens. Yes, it’s #1 of 3 in a series!

Nancy Tinnell was most gracious to write a teaser for us. (If you’ve not read the book yet, you’re going to want to!). Here’s Nancy:

”Terri Blackstock’s suspenseful novel, If I Run, is our final book club selection this year. We will be discussing it on Monday, April 22nd, and you are invited to join us! I apologized in advance to the group last month for the cliffhanger ending in this story. It provides an automatic summer reading suggestion for us: books two and three of the If I Run Series. Those titles are If I’m Found and If I Live.


Casey Cox, the anxious young woman at the heart of the story, is in a desperate situation. She has discovered a crime scene, knows that DNA evidence will point to her, even though she is innocent, but she doesn’t have much faith in the local authorities. She feels they let her down at the time of her father’s death thirteen years earlier. Casey is so wounded in her spirit and feels so alone in this dilemma that she chooses to run.

In this story, we follow her as she constantly changes her location, her appearance, and her identity, so she can buy time to think through the situation and decide what to do. There is a lot of suspense involved here, so be prepared to feel a bit anxious yourself.

Enter the love interest! Well, Dylan is not a love interest yet. He’s one of the authorities trying to track her. But we can see it coming. I just know it! He has a knack for analysis and can see that the details don’t add up to her guilt, even if the DNA evidence does implicate her. Also, Dylan’s back story makes him a sympathetic character.

At book club, we’ll be discussing these characters and several others, in addition to probing Casey’s suspicions about this crime and the circumstances surrounding her father’s death.

Since Casey has to live on fast food on the road, our suggested snack theme for our April meeting is “food on the run.” What do you fix when you have to fix something super-fast? Or what do you “drive through the drive-through” to pick up when you are in a hurry? Or what leftovers in the fridge can you pull together quickly? Food on the run, lots of fun! See you on the 22nd, book lovers.”

Thank you, Nancy! We will also announce our selections for our 2019-2020 season. We had a meeting last week and chose four fiction and three non-fiction books, all of which look wonderful!

The Living Word Bookstore in Southeast Christian Church is partnering with us to carry our selections for our new season. You may call them at (502) 253-8220. (Their website is: www.livingword.org ) They’ll be happy to order your books for you.

Gather up a carload of your friends! We hope to see you Monday, April 22nd, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Middletown United Methodist Church. Please RSVP to Nancy at (502) 245-8839.

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 http://www.middletownumc.org

 

Finally, since this week is Holy Week, here’s a reprise from last year should any of you have any anxiety about anything at all…our friend Max Lucado has just the help we need:

Anyone lugging around worries that are making you anxious? (I’m just realizing lug is in luggage.) Luggage denotes “inconveniently heavy baggage.” Well, take heart, I’m bringing you good news to lighten your load and bless us this Holy Week!

Many of you know how often I quote author Max Lucado. His book, Anxious for Nothing—Finding Calm in a Chaotic World, is a current favorite, its’ many pages already highlighted and dog-eared.

I’ll share a few of many favorite quotes which I pray will ease our anxiety, perhaps even erase it altogether, blessing us with a peaceful Holy Week. In the meantime, you may wish to grab this book as it’s a resource you would return to time and time again.

Max begins with, “Anxiety is a meteor shower of what-ifs…
Anxiety is trepidation.
It’s a suspicion,
An apprehension.
Life in a minor key with major concerns…
You’re part Chicken Little and part Eeyore. The sky is falling and it’s falling disproportionately on you.” Anyone?!!! Max not only cracks me up, he often perfectly depicts my own moods.

Flip on the news or grab a newspaper and “anxiety disorders” are usually the front runners. Epidemic proportions.Max states what we think, yet fear to admit:

One would think Christians would be exempt from worry. But we are not. We have been taught that the Christian life is a life of peace, and when we don’t have peace, we assume the problem lies within us. Not only do we feel anxious, but we also feel guilty about our anxiety! The result is a downward spiral of worry, guilt, worry, guilt.”

What’s a person to do? Thankfully, Max gifts us with the solution straight from Scripture. Philippians 4:4-8 says:

Max shows us that these five verses include, “four admonitions that lead to ONE WONDERFUL PROMISE: ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds.’” (v. 7)

Additionally, this book blesses us throughout by equipping us with a simple acronym, the word “CALM”. Put this in your anxiety arsenal and you will have a peaceful Holy Week:

The concept of “CALM” is introduced in Chapter One, and expounded on throughout the book. You’ll never look at it again in the same way! (See page 10 for starters!)

We readers are reminded to consult the Apostle Paul’s words and actions. Max says, “Paul believed in the steady hand of a good God. He was protected by God’s strength, preserved by God’s love. He lived beneath the shadow of God’s wings.”

What does that look like for us? It translates into savoring God’s sovereignty. Clinging to His sovereignty and reminding ourselves daily that God is still on the throne. Always occupied. Always interceding for you and for me…

This Holy Week as we march toward Good Friday and Easter, may we remember the acronym “Calm”, and hear Max’ reminder: “God took the crucifixion of Friday and turned it into the celebration of Sunday.”

Max’ book also includes a Study Guide which would be great for anyone, but also super for a Small Group to work thru’.

Have a blessed Easter.

‘Til next time!

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Don’t Miss This Great Read for Guys or Gals: What If It’s True? by Charles Martin

Friends!  Gather a group or just your sweet self and grab this must-read book ASAP!

Already a fan of author Charles Martin and his novels, I was surprised to learn he’s crafted his first work of non-fiction. Trust me when I say it’s a doozy. It will open your eyes, boost your faith and maybe even step on your toes, but you’ll find that’s a good thing.

We readers get the best of both worlds in that Charles, being a talented storyteller, retells various Biblical stories as only he can, gifting us with fiction, followed by non-fiction, and loads of Scripture accompanied by gut-level vulnerability. This book would be good for guys or girls, and especially great for accountability groups to consider.

Charles has his own group of guys he’s been doing life with for a number of years.  They each give endorsements in the beginning of the book. His friend, Hank says,

His friend Rick says, “This book is a refreshing and anointed reminder that the gospel is true and does change everything.”

The title itself, What If It’s True?, causes you to consider your faith seriously.  Charles reveals his own doubts while guiding us to answers, along with a moving prayer at the end of each chapter.  Thirteen powerful chapters are included plus Appendix A and B which are Scriptures Charles has collected over the years.

Appendix A has Scriptures “where the Word talks about itself.”  Charles tells us he reads these to his boys at breakfast every morning. He says, “The Word tells us that God wrote the Word on our hearts, so I’m hoping to remind their hearts what it says.” Appendix B includes verses that “speak to or promise the breaking of curses and of being overtaken by blessing.” Both are rich resources.

His chapters address many sins and how to break their stronghold.  Just a few include:  addiction, unforgiveness, pride, anger, fear, lack of zeal, running from the Lord rather than to Him, spiritual blindness. The last of which literally opened my eyes to my own spiritual blindness to, oh yes, good ole’ pride.  Gulp.

His probing questions throughout pack a punch. (That’s the getting your toes stepped on part and it’s good for all of us!)

Charles shares some of his private practices which cause us readers to consider trying as well.  One favorite visual he gives us goes like this:

“I have this thing I do in the mornings…After we get the kids to school, I take my Bible and walk outside with my coffee. Then I walk around my backyard reading God’s Word back to Him. Usually Psalms. I do this to remind me, not Him. He knows what it says. When I’ve done  that, I set my Bible down and I walk, praying, with my hands in the air.  Doing so humbles me before God. It’s how I walk into the throne room…The thing this walk does for me is take my eyes off the waves threatening to swamp the boat and put them on the Savior who beckons me, ‘Come.’”(This is in Chapter Five, one of my favorites.)

Charles also equips us with powerful Scripture to thwart the devil, distractions and even our challenge du jour. For example, when he and his wife Christy are stuck, as in praying for something and getting no answers for a long while, they cling tightly to these letters:  JCILOA (Jesus Christ is Lord of All).  This helps them to not even consider resigning their requests.  They put this “rock” (JCILOA) between themselves and their enemy, “driving it like a stake in the ground.” Powerful!

He also offers sample discussions he has with satan (He never capitalizes satan’s name, purposely dissing the devil.), also calling him “resignation”. The prayer in this particular chapter demonstrates what Charles does with each chapter in that it focuses on its main idea.

Look with me at a few sentences from the prayer in Chapter Five:

“Lord Jesus, I confess that I have given in to resignation. I have listened to his lies and given in to his claims on more than one occasion…I’ve been giving more air time to the enemy’s blue sky than Your Word. I want to take back that ground. I want to hold up a stop-sign hand and declare, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord of all!’

So, come in like a flood. Renew our strength…Father, touch my lips with a burning coal and set Your words on my tongue. I say to the spirit of resignation sitting on my couch, ‘Get out in the name of Jesus! Get out of my heart. Get out of my wife/husband’s heart. Get out of my children’s hearts. You are a liar from the pit of hell. You’re a defeated punk. Shut up!…’

Tear down any and all strongholds in my mind that would argue with You. Please seal me—all of me— and grow me into a man/woman who will stand beneath Your Word and declare, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord of all!’”

In Jesus’ Name, amen.”

So, this is just a little glimpse into What If It’s True? I highly recommend it for all ages, men and women, and also suggest you try any of Charles’ novels.  My all-time favorite one is Wrapped in Rain.  John is currently reading When Crickets CryHis newer novels are great also.  One novel, The Mountain Between Us, was made into a movie in 2017. (I believe he’s written thirteen novels so far!)


Charles’ blog and website are also good resources.  Checkout www.charlesmartinbooks.com

To close, allow me to tell on myself.  Many moons ago, about ten of us from Southeast’s book club, including my cousin’s son who’d gone to school in Jacksonville with Charles, trekked to Lexington to Joseph-Beth Booksellers as Charles was going to be there doing a book signing.  Book signings are highly unpredictable in that some are well attended and some not so much.  This one happened to be the latter.  Only two others were there, so Charles said, “I’m not going to do my dog and pony show, y’all can just ask questions.”

He began by asking us if we’d read one or more of his books.  We giddy little schoolgirls shot up our hands, showing him we’d read every single one of his books so far.

When he finished speaking, he offered to sign our books.  I proudly whipped out Wrapped in Rain.  When he opened up the title page, there was a phone number on that page.  He turned twelve shades of red and said, “Uh, ma’am, are you trying to give me your phone number???”  To which I then turned twelve shades of red and replied, “Oh, mercy, no!  My husband just finished your book and whenever he receives voicemails, he jots down the phone numbers  wherever he can find a piece of paper.”

I’m still dying over that little encounter, fully aware he very well may not have believed me.  I wanted to say, “Charles, I could be your mother, and I’ve been happily married for thirty-five years!”  God bless him, no telling how many women readers and fans he has, or how they behave!!!  My friend, Betsy, also got to meet him recently in a LifeWay store in Nashville.

Book Club from Southeast at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, KY. Pictured left to right:  Sharon Cicardo, Jennifer Wright, Susan Thorne, Yours Truly, Nancy Aguiar, Charles Martin, Bonnie Johnson, Fay Bloyd, Mary Lou Leidgen and Bill Johnson.

 

oh, the phone number scene…

 

My friend, Betsy Heady, with Charles in Nashville

If you’ve not read any books by Charles Martin, give him a try.  You’ll love his novels, find Christ in the stories, and you’ll flip over What If It’s True.  

‘Til next time!

 

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Transform Your Morning and Your Mood in Less Than TEN Minutes…

GOOD NEWS for you readers out there: You do NOT have to be a morning person to start your day off well!!!

Coming from a Confirmed Grouch in the morning, in dire need of a pot of coffee prior to producing any semblance of intelligent conversation, I’m happy to report that listening to music in the morning brings blessings a plenty:

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Blessing #1: Your focus will shift away from you and your distractions, rising up to the Lord.

Blessing #2: Praising the Lord allows you to worship with truths straight out of God’s Word.

Blessing #3: Your spirit will be lifted no matter your circumstance.

I’ll be giving you two worship songs shortly to get you started. If you listen to both of them, you can do this in under ten minutes

A while ago, I talked about Dee Brestin’s book The God of All Comfort: Finding Your Way into His Arms which she penned after her husband’s death. Songs are what saved her sanity.

The God of All Comfort

The first song I’d like to share with you John and I discovered recently at Tates Creek Presbyterian Church (TCPC), in Lexington, Kentucky.(www.tcpa.org ) We were visiting Gordy and Lauren over the weekend.

Upon singing this song with its’ powerful lyrics (which caused me to weep), I made a mental note to investigate it.  I also wrongly assumed, because of TCPC’s more liturgical services and typically older hymns, that this song was also an old one. Au contraire…

Please allow me to show you one of my new favorites,

O Church Arise by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. (Never mind they also wrote a huge favorite of mine and I suspect yours, In Christ Alone. Checkout Travis Cottrell’s rendition if you have time.)

Keith is a British, Northern Irish composer, married to Kristyn, who many times co-writes these “modern hymns”. Stuart Townend is a British, English songwriter and worship leader.

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Please sit back and enjoy Oh Church Arise. Soak in the lyrics:

To read these truths from the lyrics, here are just a few Scriptures that spell them out:

Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 8, 12:9; 1 John 1:5; Isaiah 14:2; Psalm 27:1; Philippians 4:13; Romans 5:2; Colossians 2:15; and Hebrews 4:12.

The second song I’d like to show you I suspect you already know, but perhaps hadn’t been able to savor the Scripture around which it’s centered.

I’d heard about Kari Jobe over the past few years and was blessed to be led in worship by her at a Women of Faith Conference in Houston a few years ago. (Click on “Houston We Have an Answer” )

I love her song I Am Not Alone for several reasons…the most important of which is the reminder within the title. As believers in Jesus Christ, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit within us, we are never alone.

Matthew 28:20 is where Jesus tells us, “And lo, I am with you always…” Kari also says while writing the song, they began with Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Please enjoy:

Savor these Scriptures which go along with Kari’s song:

Isaiah 43:1-2; Daniel 3; Psalm 23; Psalm 46; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 7:9-16; Romans 9:2; John 12:35; Exodus 14:14; and 2 Chronicles 20:17. (You can find more if you hunt!)

My prayer for all of us is as we begin our days, may we jump start them with worship and praise as only our King of Kings and Lord of Lords deserves. See if your mood doesn’t vastly improve as well. This week as you’re reading this, try a tune or two.

‘Til next time!

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Filed under Music, Scripture